Ozymandias, by Percy Shelley - Audio

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Scholars believe the famous poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) - which he called "Ozymandias" - was inspired by a statue of the young Ramesses II located in the British Museum.

We learn this, from the Bodleian Libraries’ “Shelley’s Ghost,” an exhibition which features, among other items, Shelley’s draft of his famous poem:

“Ozymandias” is the Greek name for Ramses II, who ruled Egypt for sixty-seven years from 1279 to 1213 BC. He was a military conqueror and a great builder, but Shelley’s sonnet describes how the achievements of even the mightiest tyrants are obliterated by time.

Only the Pharaoh’s arrogant passions, as expressed in the ruined statue, have survived, outliving both the sculptor (“The hand that mocked them”) and Ramses himself (“the heart that fed”). His many monuments have reverted to “The lone and level sand.”

Ramesses II was greatly impressed with himself and his accomplishments. He had the Ramesseum built to honor him. Today, it - and his statue - are left in ruins, as depicted in this photo, by Hajor (License CC BY-SA 3.0).


In this clip, the poem is read by Carole Bos (creator of Awesome Stories).  You can read the text as you listen.  When you do, think about these topics.


ISSUES AND QUESTIONS TO PONDER:   What is Percy Shelley telling us in this short, but powerful, poem? 

Is he ridiculing the long-dead king who boasted of his power and might - or - is he expressing pity for him? 

What are the things which matter most in life?  Is it the ability to "lord it over" others?  To build monuments which underscore greatness (of a person or a country)?  To show kindness and compassion to those who need it? 

Do Shelley's words still ring true, when we consider leaders of nations - or regimes - which rise and fall or come and go?  Why, or why not?



By Percy Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said:  "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

Shelley's manuscript of "Ozymandias" - and a copy which he penned in 1817 - both survive.  They are maintained by the Bodleian Library, at Oxford University.


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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5156stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Apr 18, 2019

Media Credits

"Ozymandias," by Percy Shelley; read by Carole Bos.


To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"Ozymandias, by Percy Shelley - Audio" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Apr 18, 2019.
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